Horsing around

LYNNE BERMEL

, Last Updated: 8:05 AM ET

Attempting a double Salchow, double axel or triple toe loop on ice is hard enough, but that doesn't compare to horse show jumping.

At least according to four-time Canadian figure skating champion Lynn Nightingale.

"I have a tough time watching Jess compete," says Nightingale of her daughter Jessica Connor, a student at All Saints High School who was recently named Trillium Jumper (provincial) champion, Eastern Zone and tied for first at the Trillium Championships with her horse Flaming Jungle.

"It's the whole danger factor. Seeing her jump over these 3-foot-6 fences is frightening."

Jessica is at the Toronto Winter Fair this weekend, taking in the show jumping competition -- as a spectator.

Lynn admits she originally hoped that Jessica, 17, would want to become a figure skater like her. She had Jessica in skating lessons as a toddler, but when the family moved from Port Stanley to Ottawa when Jessica was in Grade 2, Jess discovered the world of horses.

"I didn't really know anyone in skating in Ottawa," Jessica says. "I went with my cousin to a riding camp and it just kind of stuck.

"In the beginning, I was petrified of horses," she says, "I wouldn't want to walk around on them without somebody leading me. But I grew to love them. Horses are such neat creatures, they are always are trying to please the rider."

Equestrian show jumping is considered the most glamorous of sports -- one reserved for the monied class. The urban dictionary calls it as a sport where "the riders have a perpetual condescending scowl, while daddy is over by the car acting as groom and dishing out the money."

"There's no question that it's an expensive sport. Horses can cost in the millions. That's why the young riders are often on horses owned by syndicates," says Lynn, who is a sales agent for a real estate firm.

Does Lynn, who represented Canada at the 1976 Olympics, have similar aspirations for Jessica?

"I don't know. Becoming an elite show jumper and getting to the Olympics costs a lot of money. Stories like Eric Lamaze are one in a million."

Lamaze grew up with little money in a troubled home and went on to win individual gold and a team silver with Ian Millar, Jill Henselwood and Mac Cone at the Beijing Olympics this past summer.

For Jessica, who has now qualified for five provincials, Olympic dreams are not what keep her going to the stable every week.

"I don't think I could ever not ride. I see myself riding for the rest of my life, whether it be as competitive as it is now for me or not."

BACK ON THE SLOPES

Patrick Biggs of Orleans, the Ottawa Sports Awards Alpine Skier of the Year last year, is competing in the season's first slalom races in Levi, Finaland.

He's one of nine Canadians taking part.

UP IN THE STANDINGS

Upper Ottawa Valley's Belle A ringette team has taken over top spot in the National Capital Region Ringette League after defeating Ottawa 5-4 recently.

Amanda Purcell scored four times and Bryanne McNeil added a single. April Gillan chipped in with three assists.

FEATURE COACH

Ottawa's Julia Aimers -- triathlon coach, health and wellness consultant and former fitness director at the Ottawa Athletic club -- is featured in the latest issue of Canadian Triathlon Magazine.


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